Nat’l Guard choppers help battle wildfires

(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia National Guard joined in battling wildfires Friday, March 22, 2024, that have scorched more than 16 square kilometers in the state and destroyed several homes.

Two Blackhawk helicopters dropped water from buckets on the fires in steep, wooded terrain in Hardy County, the National Guard said on social media. The lightweight, flexible buckets hold up to 2,385 liters of water.

100 fires

The fires began earlier this week amid gusty winds and low relative humidity.

In Virginia, more than 100 fires popped up Wednesday, many of them in the central part of the state, forcing the closure of sections of Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail. A fire ban was put in place for all of Shenandoah National Park. Fires also were reported this week in neighboring Maryland.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency Thursday in the northeastern counties of Grant, Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton, enabling state resources to be allocated and to expedite emergency response efforts.

Hardy County, along the Virginia line less than a two hours’ drive from Washington, D.C., has about 14,000 residents, considerable poultry and other agricultural operations. It also offers tourists an array of river float trips and hiking and cycling trails.

As many as four homes were destroyed in the county, along with an undetermined number of outbuildings, camps and hunting grounds.

“We’re not sure of the total number yet because some of those fires are still active in a couple of those areas,” Paul Lewis, Hardy County’s emergency management director, said. “Most of these are in the mountains. There’s been a lot of smoke in the area today.” (AP)


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